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What to Expect With Your Personal Injury Case

The law firm of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White takes on a limited number of plaintiff’s personal injury cases each month. We limit our intake so we can provide the highest quality representation to each of our clients. To better equip our clients with an understanding of the process, we have broken down the phases of what to expect of our attorney-client relationship.

THE INITIAL CONFERNCE:

General information regarding the incident will be obtained when you are first interviewed. Certain other material relating to things you should not do will be furnished to you. You will be asked to sign authorization forms which will allow us to obtain necessary information. We will schedule a follow-up appointment for you to meet with the attorney handling your case shortly after you retain Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White.

RETAINER AGREEMENT:

This is the contract of employment between you and Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White.
Essentially it confirms that you have elected to hire Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White on a contingent-fee basis rather than an hourly or other basis. Accordingly, Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White’s fee will be one-third (35-40%) of any recovery whether obtained by suit or settlement. We do not take a case unless we think we will make a recovery. Therefore, all of our agreements are No Recovery-No Fee-No Expenses. The Retainer Agreement also confirms that for your convenience you have authorized Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White to advance money on your behalf to pay for expenses incurred for obtaining things such as medical records, medical reports, court costs and investigation costs.

INVESTIGATION:

Police and other incident reports will be obtained. Letters requesting medical information will be sent to all doctors and hospitals involved in your case. Anyone who may have been involved will be interviewed, witnesses will be contacted, and photographs will be taken. Any necessary information from employers will be obtained.

EVALUATION AND SETTLEMENT:

After obtaining all available information, we will carefully evaluate it to see if we believe your case has sufficient merit and damages to make it worthwhile for us to proceed. This evaluation involves researching the law, reading professional textbooks and articles, studying the records we have obtained and consulting trained professional such as doctors and nurses.

This evaluation generally takes some time. It is necessary that we investigate thoroughly and have an accurate understanding of your damages. One of the most difficult requests we must make of you is to have patience. We cannot properly evaluate your case until we have information from all sources.

If we conclude that we should not proceed with your case, we will let you know immediately so that you will have time to seek another opinion or consider some other course of action. If we conclude that we should proceed, we will discuss with you the possibility of settling your case without starting a lawsuit and, if appropriate, attempt to arrive at an amount for which you would be willing to settle your case. We would then prepare a settlement proposal to submit to the insurance company.

STARTING A LAWSUIT:

If we are unable to settle with the insurance company or if we determine that negotiations with the insurance company would not be fruitful, we may file a lawsuit.

A lawsuit is started by serving a Complaint on the other party. The other party is called a defendant. The Complaint lets the defendant know that he or she is being sued as a result of the incident. The defendant takes the Complaint to his or her insurance company, which delivers it to lawyers who work for the insurance company. The lawyers then send us a Grounds of Defense and, at that point, the case is said to be at issue.

We want to point out that, although a lawsuit may have been started, settlement is always possible at any time. Many cases are settled just before trial or during trial.

DISCOVERY:

Once the lawsuit has been started, both sides have the right to obtain information about the case by discovery depositions and interrogatories.

Discovery Depositions are the testimony of a party or a witness given under oath in the presence of attorneys for all parties to a lawsuit and before a court reporter who makes a verbatim record of the testimony.

We will be with you at the time your deposition is taken. A deposition is extremely important because the testimony can be used at trial and because a deposition often determines whether settlement is possible. Before your deposition is taken, we will discuss it with you thoroughly. We may also ask you to be present during the deposition of a defendant or a treating physician.

Interrogatories are written questions which either attorney may submit to the other party and which have to be answered by the parties, in writing, under oath.

We generally use both interrogatories and depositions to help us investigate the facts, as do the defendant’s attorneys.

At any time throughout this “discovery” period, the possibility of settlement may come up again. If anything concrete occurs, we will advise you promptly.

The law authorizes the defendant to require you to go to a doctor of his or her choice for a medical examination. This doctor will file a report with the defendant’s attorneys and, if there is a trial, may appear at the time of trial to testify on behalf of the defendant. If the defendant requires a medical examination of you, we will give you advice about what to do.

TRIAL PREPARATION:

It is usually very difficult to settle some cases at an early stage. Even when settlement is possible, it often occurs just before trial. If your case cannot be settled at a fair figure, we will proceed to trial. The two or three weeks before trial are spent in detailed review and preparation of the case. All of the witnesses are re-interviewed, exhibits are prepared and conferences are held with doctors and witnesses, and with you. What is expected of you at trial will be explained in detail before you actually go to court.

THE AMOUNT OF RECOVERY:

It is impossible for us to tell exactly how much money, if any, you will receive in connection with your case. As you attorneys, we feel it is our primary duty to obtain an amount of money which will fairly and justly compensate you for your injuries. We will make every effort to do this whether be settlement or trial, and we will advise you of our evaluation in this regard. Most cases are settled with the defendant’s insurance company but if not, the jury at your trial will determine the amount, if any, you will receive. The amount you receive either through settlement or at trial depends on the severity of your injuries, the amount of your medical bills and lost wages, your pain and suffering and how clearly the defendant was at fault. There are no hard and fast rules that determine how much you receive. Each case is unique.

THE TRIAL:

All trials are conducted in basically the same manner. They involve the following steps:

1. Selecting a Jury. In a jury case the first step is to question prospective jurors to determine whether they can be fair and impartial.

2. Opening Statement. After jury selection, each attorney has the opportunity to tell the jury what the case is about and what proof will be presented.

3. Presenting Witnesses. The plaintiff’s attorney calls witnesses first and presents the plaintiff’s case through witnesses and exhibits. The defendant’s attorney is given the right to question these witnesses when the plaintiff’s attorney has finished asking them questions. When the plaintiff has finished presenting witnesses, the defendant’s attorney is given the opportunity to call the defendant’s witnesses, and the plaintiff’s attorney has the right to question the defendant’s witnesses.

4. Argument. After the testimony is complete, the plaintiff’s attorney may argue on behalf of the plaintiff. The defendant’s attorney is then given the right to argue, and the plaintiff’s attorney is given a final chance to argue the plaintiff’s case.

5. Instructions. After all the testimony has been presented, the judge will instruct the jury as to the law. The jury then goes to the jury room and decides which party should win and the amount of money, if any, to be awarded.

TAX CONSEQUENCES:

Normally personal injury recoveries are tax free but because of the changing tax laws you should check with an accountant about the tax consequences of any settlement or judgment you might receive.

KEEPING YOU INFORMED:

We will send you copies of important documents which we send out or receive. Even though court appearances may be discussed in the papers or copies of letters you receive, you need not appear in court unless you receive a notice from us instructing you to do so. When something happens with regard to your case, we will advise you immediately. If you have a question, need some advice or are concerned about your case, do not hesitate to call.

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION:

As your lawyers, we must have all the facts in order to represent you properly. Any information you give to us is strictly confidential and will not be disclosed without your permission.

We will do our best to evaluate your case carefully and to represent you with the best skills available to us. We appreciate the opportunity to represent you in this important matter. Please contact us for more information or a free evaluation of your case.